The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has informed the Delhi high court that the national anthem, Jana Gana Mana, and the national song, Vande Mataram are on equal footing and every Indian citizen must have the same respect for both.
MHA’s response came after the Delhi high court had sought a response from the MHA, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Law and Justice, and others, to a Public Internet Litigation (PIL) that prayed for equal treatment between the anthem and the song.
The petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a practising lawyer and BJP leader, stated that India is a union, not a confederation of States and that it is the duty of every Indian to respect the Vande Mataram.
“In order to keep the country united, it is the duty of the Government to frame a National Policy to promote-propagate Jana Gana Mana and Vande Mataram. There is no reason why it should evoke any other sentiment as both are decided by Constitution makers.”
The plea also sought direction to the Centre and State governments to ensure that Jana Gana Mana and Vande Mataram are played and sung in all schools and educational institutions on every working day and also to frame guidelines in the spirit of the Constituent Assembly resolution dated January 24, 1950, read with the Judgment passed by the Madras High Court and Supreme Court of India.
“The sentiments expressed in Jana Gana Mana have been expressed while keeping the State in view. However, sentiments expressed in Vande Mataram denote the nation’s character and style and deserve similar respect,” said the plea.
Making a case for Vande Mataram, it added, “Vande Mataram was the whole nation's thought and motto when India gained independence from British rule during the independence movement. Large rallies, fermenting initially in major cities, worked themselves into a patriotic fervour by shouting the slogan Vande Mataram. The British, fearful of the potential danger of incited populace, at one point in time, banned the utterance of Vande Mataram in public places and imprisoned many independence activists for disobeying the prescription,” the plea said.
The petition further cited examples of moments the song was sung—Rabindranath Tagore sang Vande Mataram in 1896 at the Calcutta Congress Session; Dakshina Charan Sen sang it five years later in 1901 in another Congress Session at Calcutta; Sarala Devi Chaudur sang it in Benares Congress Session in 1905, and Lala Lajpat Rai started a journal called it from Lahore.